Posts Tagged: ‘Josef Shomperlen’

Girls ‘better at co-operating on problems’

November 21, 2017 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

SingaporeImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Girls were better at working together in all countries taking the tests

When young people study or take exams the results are usually about rewarding their individual achievement.

But when they get into the workplace they will be told about the importance of social skills and the need to co-operate with other people on solving problems.

So are school systems out of step with what is needed by young people?

PISA, which compares students’ abilities in reading, maths and science, has now carried out the world’s first global tests on collaborative problem-solving skills.

As might have been expected, students who are high achievers in academic tests are also likely to be better at problem solving with other people.

They are likely to have the skills in interpreting information and complex reasoning that will help them with any kind of problem solving.

The same holds true across countries. Top-performing countries in academic tests, such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Estonia, Finland and Canada, are also high performers at collaborative problem solving.

But it’s not always the case. Chinese students, who do very well in maths and science, are only average in their collaborative skills.

Top 20 for collaborative problem solving

  1. Singapore
  2. Japan
  3. Hong Kong
  4. South Korea
  5. Canada
  6. Estonia
  7. Finland
  8. Macao
  9. New Zealand
  10. Australia
  11. Taiwan
  12. Germany
  13. United States
  14. Denmark
  15. United Kingdom
  16. Netherlands
  17. Sweden
  18. Austria
  19. Norway
  20. Slovenia
  21. Belgium

Different skills

Working together seems to involve different types of ability.

Five years ago, PISA carried out tests on individual problem-solving skills.

These showed that boys tended to do better in most countries.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Singapore came top in working together to solve problems

But when the element of collaboration is added to the problem solving, girls outperformed boys in in every country. In the UK this gender gap is one of the largest.

These results are mirrored in students’ attitudes.

Girls show more positive attitudes towards relationships, meaning that they tend to be more interested in others’ opinions and want others to succeed.

Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to see the benefits of teamwork and how collaboration can help them work more effectively and efficiently.

Disadvantaged students are more likely to see the value of teamwork than their advantaged peers.

They tend to report that they prefer working as part of a team to working alone, and that they think teams make better decisions than individuals.

Schools with more diversity in their student intake are also more likely to be associated with better collaborative skills, at least relative to performance in the academic disciplines.

Teachers make a difference

The classroom environment seems to influence how well students work together.

When students have a lot of communication-intensive activities – such as taking part in class debates or arguing about science questions – they are more likely to have positive attitudes towards collaboration.

Where teachers are supportive and have more positive relationships with students, this also is more likely to be linked to higher levels of working together.

More from Global education

Ideas for the Global education series? Get in touch.

Schools can identify students who are socially isolated and provide social activities where they can build relationships – and they can work harder to prevent bullying.

So teachers can make a difference in encouraging such co-operation and making schools places that support collaborative behaviour.

But education does not end at the school gate.

Parents need to play their part too. For example, students scored much higher in the collaborative problem-solving assessment when their parents showed an interest in school activities.

What happens outside school is important, with social, or perhaps anti-social, influences.

Students who use the internet for chatting or social networking tend to better at collaborative problem solving. But students who play video games seem to do worse, even after considering social and economic factors.

But what difference does all this make?

In a world that places a growing premium on social skills, a lot more needs to be done to foster those skills across the school curriculum.

Because strong academic skills will not automatically also lead to strong social skills.

Article source:

Bigger share of aid budget for education, say MPs

November 21, 2017 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

Pupils in KenyaImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

MPs are calling for more investment in education in the UK’s overseas aid

Education should receive a bigger share of the UK’s overseas aid budget, a cross-party report from MPs says.

The International Development Select Committee said education is vital to improving lives in the world’s poorest countries.

The proportion of the UK’s aid budget spent on education was about 7% in 2015, according to MPs.

Stephen Twigg, who chairs the committee, said more must be done for the “most marginalised children”.

The report, examining the Department for International Development’s work on education, highlights the lack of access to education in developing countries and conflict zones.

‘Eradication of poverty’

“Education is a fundamental human right which underpins the improving of lives and the eradication of poverty,” the report says.

But, it says, there are 263 million young people without access to school and a further 330 million in schools of such poor quality they are not learning even the basics.

Image copyright

Image caption

Girls are more likely to miss out on school in countries facing poverty and conflict

The number of families displaced from their homes – such as refugees from war – has almost doubled since the late 1990s, leaving millions of children without schools.

The report shows that in 2015, about £650m of the UK’s aid budget was spent on education in direct, bilateral aid – and a further £227m through other departments or international organisations.

This was about 7% of the total overseas aid spending – down from 10% in 2011 and 2013 and 9% in 2014.

More from Global education

Ideas for the Global education series? Get in touch.

The MPs say more support for education is essential for long-term efforts to lift countries from poverty.

The report says UK aid should focus on the groups most likely to be out of education – “the very poorest, girls, disabled children and those affected by conflict and emergencies”.

MPs are also calling for more funding to come from developing countries to support their school systems – and for that education funding to more equitably shared within countries.

Fairer access

Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children, told the committee that too often spending on education in low-income countries was “heavily-skewed towards more advantaged children”.

Image copyright

Image caption

War in South Sudan: Conflict has destroyed access to schools for millions of children

The committee is calling for more support for the Global Partnership for Education, an international coalition that works with 65 developing countries to improve education.

MPs also examined the “controversial” use of aid funding to support private school chains in poor countries, such as in sub-Saharan Africa.

The report says there is still a “lack of research” and a need for more evidence into the effectiveness of such fee-charging schools.

Mr Twigg said improvements in education would “require a substantial increase in finance”.

He urged the Department for International Development to “champion the needs of the most marginalised children and young people across the world”.

A Department for International Development spokeswoman said: “As this report recognises, the UK is giving millions of children in the poorest and most fragile countries the vital education they need to get jobs and have a brighter future.

“DFID is increasing its focus on getting the world’s most vulnerable children, including refugees and those with disabilities, into school.”

Article source:

Automated checkouts ‘miserable’ for elderly shoppers

November 21, 2017 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

Automated machineImage copyright

Image caption

When the only interaction is with a machine, shopping can be a “miserable experience”

Automated checkout machines put off about a quarter of older people from going shopping, a survey from a housing charity for the elderly suggests.

They can find the automated checkouts “intimidating” and “unfriendly,” according to the charity, Anchor.

Without someone to talk to at the tills, shopping can be a “miserable experience,” a spokesman said.

The British Retail Consortium said it was important for shops to be welcome destinations for all of the community.

The lack of seats in shopping centres or on High Streets can also make older people feel “shut out”, according to the charity.

It also warned that automated checkouts could add to loneliness and isolation among the elderly.

“There was a time when people knew their shopkeepers and could pass the time of day. You can’t do that with a machine,” says Mario Ambrosi, a spokesman for the charity.

‘Dire need’

The report from the charity, produced by the Centre for Future Studies consultancy group, says there is a “dire need for the High Street to re-invent itself” if it is going to be accessible and attractive to older people.

The study suggests 24% of older people are deterred from shopping by automated checkouts and 60% are worried that there will be a lack of seating if they need to rest.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The report says older people can feel “shut out” from shopping

With rising numbers of older people, the charity says that by the end of the next decade retailers could be missing out on £4.5bn per year if pensioners stay away from the shops.

“The technology needs to have some human interaction, it’s what gets people into the shops,” says Mr Ambrosi.

He says there are still “significant numbers” of older people who are not online and depend on going to the shops – but who find the experience uncomfortable.


For the automated checkouts, he says people might feel under pressure “if they don’t respond quickly enough” to the instructions.

It also might mean “they can have gone shopping without having said ‘hello’ to a single person – and that’s quite a miserable experience,” he says.

Daphne Guthrie, who is approaching her 93rd birthday, says across her lifetime she has seen a complete change in shopping culture – from small, privately owned stores, where shopkeepers knew their customers, to impersonal megastores.

Image caption

“I wouldn’t want everything to be automated,” says Daphne Guthrie.

Mrs Guthrie, from Market Deeping, in Lincolnshire, says she would always choose a till with a human and has never tried the automatic checkouts.

She would like shops to be more welcoming to older customers and shopping centres to be less harsh environments for people who might want to stop and chat, particularly those who might not get to talk to many people.

“They should be more friendly – treat me as a person and not just someone who pays the bill.

“I wouldn’t want everything to be automated,” she says,

The Campaign to End Loneliness has warned of an estimated 1.2 million people in the UK who have “chronic” loneliness.

The campaign has highlighted that automated checkouts have shut down what might be some people’s only chance to talk to someone during the day.

Anchor is also promoting the Standing Up 4 Sitting Down campaign to improve seating in shops and the High Street.

A spokeswoman for the British Retail Consortium said that shops had been trying to incorporate more seating to “ensure everyone can have an enjoyable shopping experience”.

“As High Streets continue to evolve, it’s increasingly important they are welcome destinations for people of all parts of the community.”

But the increase in automation and self-checkout machines is about costs, the retailers’ group said, reflecting the “diverging costs of labour versus technology”.

Article source:

Pupils hijab questioning ‘ludicrous’

November 20, 2017 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

A schoolgirl wearing a hijabImage copyright
Getty Images

Muslim campaigners have condemned “discriminatory” plans for school inspectors to question girls who wear hijab in primary school.

Head of Ofsted Amanda Spielman said pupils would be asked why they wear the headscarf, which “could be interpreted as sexualisation of young girls”.

But some have asked why the pupils and not the schools will be challenged.

Ofsted said the move was in line with its current practice of assessing whether a school promotes equality.

The hijab is traditionally worn as a sign of modesty once a girl reaches puberty.

Research by the National Secular Society in September suggested 59 of 142 Islamic schools, including 27 primary schools, in England have a uniform policy which states a head-covering is compulsory.

“The hijab in primary schools should be something that is dealt with via the schools uniform policy,” said Sajda Mughal, head of JAN Trust, a charity working with BAME and Muslim women.

She called the move by Ofsted “nonsense and discriminatory” and said it will be used by extremists to advance their narrative of “them and us’” and could fuel marginalisation.

“I know as a Muslim mother of young girls, I’d be alarmed and horrified if I found that my daughters were questioned if they wore the hijab,” she said.

This was echoed by human rights campaigner Aisha Ali-Khan, who said the primary schools should be held to account “rather than quizzing little girls”.

Oftsed should instead ask “why are primary school uniform policies allowing hijab for girls under the age of puberty when Islamic laws state otherwise,” she added.

Skip Twitter post by @SajdaMughal

End of Twitter post by @SajdaMughal

But Amina Lone, from the Social Action and Research Foundation, was one of those who lobbied Ofsted to take action.

“As a second generation Muslim woman and a parent, I have huge concerns about the increasing encroachment of gender inequality in public spaces for women of faith,” she told the BBC’s Asian Network.

“The hijab is absolutely not required for children.

“Gender equality was hard fought for in this country and we shouldn’t be diluting that.”

She said it was “absurd” to be having this debate in 2017 and stressed this was not about secondary school children or adults.

There is no ban on Islamic dress in the UK, but schools are allowed to decide their own dress code.

Current government advice states: “Pupils have the right to manifest a religion or belief, but not necessarily at all times, places or in a particular manner.”

Shereen, a hijabi, said the choice should be between the parents and the child.

The mother-of two, whose own daughters do not wear a hijab, said the headscarf has been misrepresented.

“It has nothing to do with sexualising children. That claim is ridiculous,” she told the BBC Asian Network.

Vlogger and mother, Nilly Dahlia agreed. She started wearing hijab aged 22.

“Hijab is not about sexualisation. It is a sign of submission to our faith,” she said.

“I do feel like the government are trying to control Muslims.”

‘Common sense’

But blogger Hifsa Haroon-Iqbal said the issue was simply a school uniform one.

“If schools do not want young children in primary education to wear hijabs in school, this needs to be made explicitly clear within the school uniform policy.

“This is not about racism, being islamophobic or discriminatory. It is common sense,” the mother-of-three wrote.

“To subject a young child to questioning about why they are dressed in a particular way is ludicrous as it will always warrant the same response, ‘because my mother dresses me’.”

Article source:

Childcare website glitch leaves families struggling

November 20, 2017 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

West familyImage copyright
Matthew West

Image caption

Matthew and Sarah say government childcare payments for their sons suddenly dried up

“It’s the difference between us being able to get by every month and actually struggling to put food on the table.”

Matthew West says a glitch on a government website means childcare payments for his two sons have dried up and the family are having to use credit cards to make ends meet.

They are among the many affected by continuing problems with the Childcare Service website.

HMRC says families may not realise that their eligibility has changed.

Matthew and his wife Sarah had been receiving funding from HM Revenue and Custom’s tax-free childcare scheme for Gabriel, nearly five, and two-year-old Sam.

Under the scheme, parents pay money into an online account for each child.

For every £8 from parents, the government contributes £2. The money is then paid to a registered childcare provider.

Parents have to re-register their children every three months.

Details ‘lost’

“It worked fine for us until we had to reconfirm our details,” said Mr West.

But after reconfirming their eligibility, the couple suddenly found themselves no longer receiving the payment, they told BBC Radio Four’s Money Box programme.

The government’s contribution stopped for Gabriel, while Sam’s account appeared to be lost.

“We could see it, but HMRC couldn’t, and neither account was topping up.”

The couple, from Essex, repeatedly rang the Childcare Service helpline.

“They said it was a technical fault and there really wasn’t much they could do about it. Sarah was on the phone to them for weeks on end.

“I can imagine some people literally wanting to punch the computer screen because they’re so frustrated with the system. And in terms of talking to them on the phone, largely it’s just been shambolic.”

Software glitches

Raqhi Kakad of Birmingham told Money Box she was facing a similar problem.

She uses the Childcare Service website to access the government’s other subsidy scheme, which offers 30 hours’ free childcare for three and four-year-olds in England.

After she reconfirmed her three-year-old son’s eligibility, she received an email saying her reconfirmation wasn’t valid and the 30 free hours would be withdrawn.

“I was a bit stumped because we still meet the eligibility criteria,” she said.

These issues follow the software glitches that plagued the website over the summer when parents faced problems registering for funding or accessing their accounts.

Last week the government announced it was suspending plans to roll out tax-free childcare funding to older children, so that it could “manage” the number of parents using the service.

HMRC says reconfirmation is not causing problems and that 177,000 people have successfully reconfirmed their eligibility.

The representative suggested that in some cases a family’s eligibility has changed without them realising.

In the past few days, an IT company has been advertising on Facebook for members of the public to be paid £50 to come and test the Childcare Service website.

In the advertisement, We Research said it was “desperate” for parents to come and help.

Image copyright

HMRC confirmed the advert is genuine but it says it’s normal to have ongoing tests. The Facebook page has since been removed.

Tax expert Jamie Morrison from HW Fisher Company says the government needs to have more realistic timelines for introducing services online.

“Increasingly more and more people are going to be pushed into dealing with the government digitally.

“The worry is that the systems cannot cope with the number of applicants and then fail. While the government can run all the tests that it wants to, it’s how the system performs live that’s often the problem,” he said.

Article source:

Review recommends student income of £8,100 a year

November 20, 2017 Posted by Josef Shomperlen


All college and university students should have an income of at least £8,100 a year, according to an independent review of student finance.

The report, commissioned by the Scottish government, also recommended changes to the student loan system.

The £8,100 figure would be a mix of loans and bursaries determined by personal circumstances.

Student leaders said “serious investment” was needed to change the “broken” support system.

The Scottish government said it would take time to consider the recommendations and set out its next steps “in due course”.

The review looked at the financial support available to all students and considered whether it support met the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.

It also examined the current repayment threshold and period for student loan debt.

The key recommendations of the review included:

  • A new social contract for students
  • Minimum student income entitlement in both further and higher education
  • Minimum student income of £8,100
  • Increased means-tested bursaries, and discretionary funds protected
  • Student loan terms enhanced, including an increased loan repayment threshold
  • Student loans available in further education
  • Debt write-off for students transitioning from further to higher education
  • Common systems of administration within further and higher education
  • A new approach for students on benefits

The review was chaired by Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the chief executive officer of Virgin Money.

Presenting the 84-page report of its findings, she said: “Our recommendations are based on a new social contract for students in Scotland.

“They would ensure that further and higher education are valued equally – with entitlement to support for students across both sectors.

“And in return, more students from diverse backgrounds will have the chance to become successful graduates, for the social and economic good of Scotland.”

Ms Gadhia said every £1 of public investment in further and higher education led to almost £6 of economic impact.

She added: “The establishment of a minimum student income is an essential step forward in delivering fairness, and helping to ensure that money is no longer a reason for dropping out of courses.

“Non-repayable bursaries will continue to be focused on those from the lowest income backgrounds. And students can, if they so wish, access high quality student loans – on the best terms in the UK.”

Analysis from BBC Scotland education correspondent Jamie McIvor:

The proposal for a “guaranteed income” for students would bring clarity and simplicity to the system.

While all Scottish students receive free tuition, arrangements for help towards living costs are more complicated.

For instance a university student from a family with an income of less than £19,000 is entitled to a bursary of £1,875 and a loan of £5,750 – a total of £7,625.

Someone from a family with an income of more than £34,000 gets no bursary while the loan they are entitled to is just £4,750.

There are different arrangements for college students.

Read more from Jamie here.

The chairwoman of the review group acknowledged constraints on public finances when it came to delivering the recommendations.

She said it would require additional funding of £16m a year but said the review had also set out other options, which would cost more, that the Scottish government could pursue if further public funding became available.

The review heard from more than 3,500 students and had almost 100 responses to its consultation from colleges, universities and student associations, as well as individuals. Focus groups were also carried out across Scotland.

Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Shirley-Anne Somerville, said: “The report sets out a number of recommendations that would fundamentally change the way students in Scotland are supported financially.

“It is only right that we now take the time to consider these recommendations in detail – and as part of current and future budget processes. We will set out our next steps in due course.”

She said the Scottish government was investing a “record amount” in student support and wanted to ensure “all students, especially those in our most deprived communities, are provided with the financial support they need to succeed”.

Reaction to New Social Contract for Students

Responding to the report, NUS Scotland president Luke Humberstone welcomed proposals to give the same level of support to further and higher education students.

He said: “Whether you’re studying at college or university, the cost of living doesn’t change and neither should the level of student support available.

“While this report presents a range of options for the future of student support to deliver the new social contract, Scotland’s poorest students in further and higher education need to see serious new investment in bursary support – so that they are supported to succeed wherever they study.

“At present, those students taking out loans in Scotland get a raw deal. This report recommends the Scottish government fixes that, ensuring that graduates don’t start repaying their student debt until they see the benefits of their degree in their payslip.”

Informed decisions

Colleges Scotland, the body which represents Scotland’s further education institutions, said it fully supported measures to improve student support funding to ensure that all students can attend college, regardless of their personal circumstances or background.

Chief executive Shona Struthers added: “As the recommendations from the review are considered, it will be vital to ensure that any changes to the student support review are carefully implemented and communicated with nuance to ensure that individuals are empowered and enabled to make informed decisions on funding their studies.”

Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS, urged the Scottish government to “take bold steps to ensure that student support is enhanced to promote equity of opportunity for all learners”.

General secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The EIS believes that a return to a system of student grants and the removal of the prospect of debt from student loans would both widen access to education and provide a knock-on boost to Scotland’s economy.”

Article source:

Men’s refuge

November 20, 2017 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

Distressed manImage copyright

A man who escaped from his abusive wife and moved into a refuge said it got to the point where he was “too frightened to leave the house”.

The man, who does not wish to be named, spent six months in the Domestic Abuse Safety Unit in Shotton, Flintshire.

It is the only refuge for men fleeing domestic abuse in north Wales, and with just two beds, is having to turn men away.

The unit, funded by Flintshire council, says it needs more cash.

It can only accommodate two men at a time, but wants to be able to house fathers with their children.

With its current funding arrangement coming to an end in March, and with the council yet to set its budget, the centre is uncertain how much cash they will receive.

The man, who fled his eight-year abusive marriage and moved into the centre, said it gave him space to think about what he was going to do.

“It was controlling. I wasn’t allowed to go out on my own. I had to describe, if I did go out, where I’d been, who I’d seen,” he said.

“It came to the point where I was frightened to leave the house for more than an hour.

“It got worse…. I suppose, in hindsight, I should have seen it happening. But when you are in the thick of it, you don’t.”

Image copyright

Image caption

The domestic abuse centre can only house two men and has had to turn victims away

Out of desperation he rang Women’s Aid and found the refuge.

“It was a space that I really needed to get my own thoughts about what I was going to do,” he said.

“When you have been in that kind of relationship for so long you can’t even think and decide things for yourself and it takes a while to get used to that.”

Staff said demand for the unit had outstripped supply since the first men were helped there in June 2016.

“On the first day of opening we had five referrals for those two bed spaces,” said project manager Emma Glover.

“And following that we’ve accommodated 10 male victims and we’ve had 30 referrals that have been refused either because the refuge has been full or they just weren’t suitable for the project.”

Flintshire council has been asked to comment.

Article source:

Smacking has no place in modern Wales, says minister

November 20, 2017 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

Smacking childImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The Welsh Government wants to ban smacking in Wales

The physical punishment of children has no place in a modern and progressive Wales, children’s minister Huw Irranca-Davies has said.

Ahead of a consultation due to start in January on a proposed smacking ban, Mr Irranca-Davies said the practice was “no longer be acceptable”.

The comments have been welcomed by the children’s charity the NSPCC.

But campaigners against the change in the law said a smacking ban would criminalise ordinary parents.

Mr Irranca-Davies’ comments, re-affirming the government’s intention to legislate for the ban, are some of the strongest made on the subject by a Welsh Government minister.

The proposed change to the law, which under current plans would go before AMs for consideration next autumn, would remove the “reasonable punishment” defence in the law on common assault.

Ahead of an event in Swansea to mark Universal Children’s Day, Mr Irranca-Davies said: “Our understanding of what is needed to protect and support children and their families has changed considerably over the years, and societal norms have changed as a result”.

He said: “It can no longer be acceptable in a modern and progressive society for children to be physically punished.

“It is right that as a government, we take action to protect children and support parents to use positive and effective alternatives to physical punishment.”

Image caption

Huw Irranca-Davies said it is “right” that the government takes action to protect children

Independent AM and UKIP Wales MEP Nathan Gill questioned how a smacking ban would be policed.

“I do not want any government to criminalise parenting and move one step closer to controlling every aspect of our lives,” he said.

An NSPCC spokesman said: “Every child deserves equal protection under the law and should be protected from such draconian forms of discipline.

“It is wrong that a defence, which does not exist in a case of common assault against an adult, can be used to justify striking a child.”

Changing the law, the NSPCC argued, would bring Wales in line with “dozens of countries”.

But Lowri Turner, a spokeswoman for the Be Reasonable Wales campaign group which is opposed to a ban, said: “There is nothing progressive about saying regardless of the results of the consultation you are committed to pressing on with punitive legislation that we know will criminalise ordinary parents.

“Those calling for this change continue to use hysterical and manipulative language. They try to make out that a gentle smack on the back of the legs from a loving mum is the same as beating up your kids. They are being disingenuous because it is not.”

“We urge all assembly members to listen to their constituents, to listen to the results of the consultation and explore ways of supporting them, rather than criminalizing them,” she added.

Labour AM Julie Morgan had campaigned for the change in the law before her party agreed to pass new legislation.

Referring to Mr Irranca-Davies’ comments, she said it was “very welcome to hear it said in such strong terms, because it signals that we’ve reached the stage now where we’re not going to talk about it anymore, we’re actually going to do it”.

Wales will not be the first part of the UK to consider legislation on smacking – the Scottish Government is supporting a proposed law by Green MSP John Finnie.

Article source:

Pregnant at 14: ‘I proved myself by getting good GCSEs’

November 20, 2017 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

Alex went back to school two months after she had her baby.

It was a struggle to juggle homework and night feeds but she felt she had something to prove.

So, instead of mucking around at the back of the class like she had before, she started to focus and came out with good grades

Now 19, with a college diploma and a full-time job, she believes her life is better than it might have been if she had not become pregnant – but would she want the same for her own daughter?

Video produced by Judith Burns and Hannah Gelbart

Article source:

Modern slums

November 18, 2017 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

Emadlina's roomImage copyright

Image caption

No room to play… Emadlina and her three children lived in this room

Poor children are being crammed into slum-land bedsits, some of which are so risky that some families end up being referred to social services for help, charities say.

Whole families are living in single rooms in shared properties, where strangers are coming and going.

Some are renting from private landlords, while others – recently made homeless – are placed in temporary accommodation by local councils, trying to meet their obligations amid the housing crisis.

“Call it a slum, call it what you like,” says Kim Steward, an outreach worker with charity School-Home Support, “lots of families live like this and it’s not safe.”

The charity, which supports struggling families in London and south-east England, says it is increasingly having to step in to prevent families placed in risky housing from facing danger.

Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh is bringing the “dangerous” conditions of some temporary housing to the attention of the House of Commons on Tuesday.

She will be highlighting the living quarters of homeless families placed in a converted office block in the middle of a working industrial estate in south London.

Photographs show cramped rooms, packed full of family possessions, and unsanitary communal areas, featuring broken-down white goods, with few safe places to play.

Some 200 children, and their families, have been placed at Connect House in Mitcham by one of four local authorities. The MP says they are at risk from lorries and heavy machinery moving around neighbouring businesses.

‘No place to play’

Mrs McDonagh describes it as “an accident waiting to happen”, with rooms costing between £30 and £40 a night.

A spokesman for managing agents Easy Lettings said the housing had been licensed by Merton Council, and three other councils, for temporary housing and meets all the regulations.

“Many of these people cannot be provided for by the normal housing market for all sorts of reasons,” he said.

“The rooms are not huge but they are well cared for.

“I know this is not ideal accommodation, but it is temporary, it is emergency accommodation and the landlord doesn’t require a deposit and often people leave without paying anything.”

He added that the councils who had licensed it visited it frequently.

Image copyright

Image caption

Families are squashed into very small living spaces

But a spokesman for Merton Council said it was seeking advice about what legal steps it can use to improve the conditions of people living at Connect House.

It said it had only six households living at the building.

Croydon Council said the housing met required standards, but it is working with other councils to improve conditions there.

The picture is not much different in east London, where family support worker Kim was asked to step in and support a mother and her three children facing dangers of a different sort.

Emadlina and her children, whose surname we have not used, were practically confined to a tiny room in a shared house in east London for four years. It was no wonder the children were struggling at school.

The living space consisted of a double bed, with a small walkway about a foot or so wide around it, and a wardrobe, a fridge and a microwave jammed in a corner.

“All we could ever do was sit on the bed,” Emadlina recalled. “There was no other place to sit. There was no place to play.”

Her room was one of seven bedsits in the former three-bedroom house. Each had four or five people to a room.

Some were families and some were men who were in east London to work, but everyone in the house shared the same bathroom and kitchen.

“It wasn’t safe. There were people coming and going all the time and when they drank they would fight,” said Emadlina.

“The children had to be with me all the time. It was very intense and very frightening. I would dread having to go back inside the house.”


After battling for several months, Kim managed to get the family moved to a self-contained two-bedroom flat classed as temporary accommodation, only to find the council planned to move a man and his child in to share the property.

“I called the council and said ‘it’s another safeguarding risk and I am not having it’, ” said Kim, who had pursued her case doggedly at every stage.

Image copyright

Image caption

Escape from squalor: Kim fought Emadlina’s case with determination

She called a contact at the housing department which led to Emadlina being moved a month later to a property on the outskirts of London.

Although they are now safe, it is nonetheless a temporary arrangement, and the family have the uncertainty of knowing they could be moved at any time.

They are also at least an hour away from the children’s primary school.

Concerns are growing about councils using poor privately-owned accommodation, whether it’s bedsits, hostels, or other properties used to house needy families because of a lack of social housing.

There are 78,180 households in temporary accommodation in England, including more than 120,000 children and the numbers are rising. These figures do not take into account those renting directly from private landlords.

Image copyright

Image caption

Some of the properties used are not designed for residential use

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “In 2011 we took action and changed the law so that councils can place families in decent and affordable private rented homes so they can move into settled accommodation more quickly.”

It has also allocated £950m to reduce homelessness and is bringing in reforms to ensure more people get the help they need to prevent them from becoming homeless.

School-Home Support’s safeguarding manager Daniel Jarrett says the issue of poor housing has fuelled the number of safeguarding cases his charity has dealt with in the past year.

He said: “Children can be living in unsuitable places for months at a time or even longer.

“If the concerns are so great, it may need to be referred for a social work intervention and this could lead to a children in need plan or child protection plan.”

Enver Solomon, director of external affairs at National Children’s Bureau, said: “Because the system is overstretched, housing concerns are not normally seen as a child safeguarding issue by social workers.

“They are just seen as one of a number of contributing factors, but I would say they really need to be taken into account. The guidance is clear on what the impact of poor housing is on children.”

Local children’s safeguarding boards have also been probing the way temporary accommodation is being used for families around England in the wake of the Grenfell fire.

Image copyright

Image caption

This mother says she cries every day at life in a single room with her baby

David Ashcroft, chairman of the association representing these boards, said his members had been asking questions of local councils, landlords and other agencies about the safety of accommodation used.

But Louise King, director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, said many families are being placed in unsafe bed and breakfasts and hostels, which they sometimes share with recovering drug addicts and ex-prisoners.

She added that because many are staying there for far longer than the legal six-week limit, the situation was causing unnecessary safeguarding referrals.

“Living in these places can be very frightening for children. It can be very smelly, dirty and cold, and it could potentially be seen as neglect but actually it is the state who is putting children in these places,” she said.

Last year the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child urged the government to take steps to guarantee all children stable access to adequate housing.

Image copyright

Image caption

This resident sleeps in the day so her daughter can have the bed at night

Mrs McDonagh wants local councils to ensure that all temporary accommodation meets a minimum standard and that records are kept on those housed in such places.

Councillor Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman, said a healthy home was essential for children’s physical safety, emotional stability, and mental health and that councils strive to ensure that housing is appropriate for families.

“But when councils are having to house the equivalent of an extra secondary school’s worth of pupils every month, and the net cost for councils of funding temporary accommodation has tripled in the last three years, it’s clear the current situation is unsustainable for councils, and disruptive for families.”

It urged the government to take steps to adapt welfare reforms to ensure housing remains affordable for low-income families.

Article source: